In this roundtable discussion, Caroline Davis, Olivier Driessens, and Peter D McDonald reflect on literature as a mode of public intervention.
The members of this expert panel, chaired by Elleke Boehmer, explore the socio-political dimension of literary production and launch a plea for institutional readings of literature that acknowledge the crucial gatekeeping role of publishers, literary agents, critics, and prize-giving bodies. Focusing on J.M. Coetzee's 'Diary of a Bad Year', Peter D McDonald (University of Oxford) reflects on the ambivalent status of literature as a form of public discourse. Caroline Davis (Oxford Brookes), analyzing the refashioning and repositioning of African writers for the UK and US markets, provides intriguing insights into the publishers' interventions in the cross-field migrations between art and politics. Olivier Driessens (University of Cambridge) then stresses the need for us to shift our focus from the author as a lone genius to the collaborative processes involved in the creation of literary reputations.